Mata: Meem Alif Tay Alif
Hum muwah'hid haiN hamara kaish hay tark e rasoom,
MillataiN jub mitt ga'een ajzaa e eemaaN ho ga'eenMirza Asadullah Khan GhalibBelievers in one God, rituals we renounce,
Creeds, when dissolved, merge into one Faith.Trans: K.C. Kanda
I travel a lot and one of the places I always make an effort to visit in the new city is the oldest place of worship, be it a church, synagogue, temple, mosque or shrine. I cherish the serenity and a certain peace I find in such places. Earlier I have written twice on this:What Kind of Muslim Are You and What Kind of Hindu Are You?
Hundreds and thousands of years of worshiping and incantations imbues a indescribable aura to the walls and the locale that can be felt in the air.
In places I have discovered churches in mosques -Damascus, mosques in churches - Istanbul, a church where you have to take off your shoes -Goa, a mandir with pews - Trinidad.
Today, I read in ToI about a visit to Pakistan by Manu Joseph. Describing his visit to the Clifton Mandir, he writes:
Kali idols in Karachi's posh Clifton area
Outside one such temple in the posh Clifton neighbourhood, on a distant Monday four years ago, stood a man in pathan suit. His name was Jayanti Ratna. He was wielding a stick and surveying the large crowds that were trying to enter the temple. "Jai Shiv Shankar," he kept screaming. Occasionally, he stopped some people by placing his stick horizontally around their chests. "Muslims are not allowed," he said to them. He stopped me too. "Are you a Hindu," he said, "Muslims are not allowed inside." That was the first time during the two month tour of Pakistan that my religion was asked. And it was outside a Hindu temple. He was shown the passport. His eyes softened. "Christians, too, are not allowed. But then you are an Indian." Outside a Hindu Temple in Pakistan - Manu Joseph
I last visited Karachi in 2007 and in my conversations with Karachites, young and old, was dismayed at how little they knew about Karachi's history. Except the odd well informed Karachite who knew about the Talpur fort on Manora Island, and the temples, churches or the lone synagogue, most had no interest nor an inkling about Karachi's past. The synagogue has been sold off to developers and part of Karachi's history has been lost for ever.
Karachi has lots of old mandirs. There are a few functioning ones I visited. There is one in Clifton, one across from the KMC building on M A Jinnah Road, one near the old Native Jetty Bridge, two in Soldier Bazaar and one in Amil Colony # 2 near Islamia College. And there is a crumbling one on the beach in Manora that ravages of time has turned into a crumbling structure.
Last year, late one night we were at Clifton. I asked my friends and an assortment of nieces and nephews if they would like to visit the Mandir. They agreed and I approached the keeper, who was also in shalwar kameez. He asked me if I was a Hindu. I smiled without answering and he waived us through.
For the Karachi friends and relatives it was an experience, and I hope a learning one.
The Lakshmi Narayan Mandir across from KMC building on M. A. Jinnah road is in a compound. When we visited it one afternoon, the mandir was closed and some boys were playing cricket nearby. One twelve year old asked us if we were Hindus. M smiled and said she is an insaan. The kid nodded wisely.
Another day we visited one in Soldier Bazaar. One thing that is imprinted on my mind is inside the sanctum sanctorium on the far wall the Urdu lettering, about two feet high, spelling meem-alif-tay-alif: Mata. Mata was written in multicolored glitter ribbons, the kind used in garlands and for decorating the bridal car.
(Above photo is the view of the mandir facing Arabian Sea. by Owais Mughal)
I had visited this mandir in 2004 and it was in appalling state. Plaster was peeling off and bricks were falling off. On Blogger Pakistan Sridhar had this comment to make on this mandir:
Hindu Temple Manora, Karachi - Johnny Stores Post Cards Karachi No. 26, ~ 1930
The architectural style is the Nagara style - seen in temples all over North India. Ancient surviving examples of that style includes the complex of temples in Khajuraho, dating from the 10th century. Most medieval temples in north India also followed this architectural style (or sometimes the Orissa style). It is characterized by a narrow tapered tower (called the ’shikhar’) with a square base, overlaid with sections of smaller reproductions of itself. The ’shikhar’ often has a circular structure on the top, called the ‘amalaka’. This particular temple in Manora is quite simple and not large or ostentatious, but typical examples of this style also include several layers of embellishments carved into the ’shikhar’. sridhar
The narrow street that led to the beach and this mandir reminded me of the street that led to the Vivekananda Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari. Small shops selling trinkets, charms, sweets, posters and food with sea in the air.
The mandir in Manora was crumbling and in a dilapidated shape. The small chapel that we found on the naval base nearby was sealed off and appeared to be in a better shape. Perhaps the tourism department or another relevant government body should look in to this.
Tu Hindu banayga na Musalmaan banayga
Insaan ki aulad hay insaan banayga
Neither a Hindu nor Muslim will you be
A human you are, a human you shall be
KARACHI: Despite Pakistan’s rich heritage of historical and archeological sites, very little work has been done for their restoration and preservation. This became more apparent after Daily Times visited a small pyramid-shaped Hindu temple, the ‘Shri Varun Dev Mandir’ in Manora.
The temple looks westwards at the Arabian Sea. Its beautiful architecture and appearance is in decay due to a complete lack of care. Its walls and rooms serve as a toilet for the locals of Manora’s sandy beach. In addition, the humid winds are eating away at whatever is left of the structure. The rich carvings on the walls of the mandir are slowly eroding to vagueness. Manora mandir being used as toilet: caretaker By Shahzad Shah Jillani